According to a recent Lancet’s study, researchers identified 12 risk factors that could be modified to delay or prevent ~40% of dementia cases. There’s nothing new about the concept of prevention being better than cure. If you care about your brain then keep on reading.
The new update included 3 new risk factors that researchers believe need to be addressed – mid-life head injuries, excessive alcohol abuse, and exposure to air pollution.
The previous 9 risk factors mentioned in a 2017 report included social isolation, physical inactivity, diabetes (especially in 65+ year-olds), mid-life hearing loss, less or sub-par K-12 education, hypertension, smoking, obesity, and depression.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are ~50 million dementia cases in the world today with ~10 more million being added every year. It’s estimated that the total number of on-going dementia cases will rise to ~150 million by 2050. This is especially true for low- and middle-income countries and societies where the majority of dementia cases take place. It’s also worth noting that dementia is more common in women than in men.
On a positive note, some countries are seeing an overall decrease in dementia cases. The proportion of older people living with dementia in France, the UK, and the US have fallen. Experts believe it’s partly due to lifestyle changes, demonstrating the possibility of reducing dementia through preventative measures.
The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC 2020). According to Lon Schneider, MD, the co-director of the USC Alzheimer Disease Research Center, both individuals and policymakers should consider adopting the following interventions:
- Reduce hearing loss risk from high noises and encourage the use of hearing aids to reduce the effects of hearing loss.
- Prevent head injuries by adopting better protective measures in high-risk professions.
- Maintain systolic blood pressure below 130 mm Hg from the age of 40 and above.
- Limit the exposure to air pollution, including second-hand tobacco smoke.
- Stop smoking.
- Reduce weekly alcohol intake to 21 units (one unit of alcohol equals 10ml or 8g pure alcohol) at most.
- Ensure that all children get access to adequate primary and secondary education.
- Reduce obesity and limit the risk factors for diabetes.
- Lead a more socially active lifestyle.
- Be physically active.
- Improve sleep and stress management.
In essence, the report advocates that a more holistic and evidence-based approach to dementia can have a drastic influence on the lives of tens of millions of people. The report also points out that more governmental attention should be given to family caregivers of people with dementia as the former are prone to increased anxiety and depression.